Pruitt Meets with Wheeler Chamber and Development Authority
Newly-elected state legislator Robert Pruitt met with the Wheeler County Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority recently and offered his support in helping the county to capitalize on its assets and bring about positive change. Pruitt, a Republican from Dodge County, won the District 149 House seat in the June 9 election, defeating Chris Steverson, also a Republican and former sheriff of Telfair County. Pruitt replaces Jimmy Pruett, also of Eastman, who had held the District 149 seat since 2007. District 149 is composed of the counties of Dodge, Telfair, and Wheeler, as well as a potion of Laurens and Jeff Davis counties. “I am done with politicking for now, and I want to introduce myself to people throughout my district and share what I am trying to do and what I would like to see done,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt has lived in District 149 for 25 years and has deep family roots in the area that reach back for four generations. His immediate family is from Chauncey, where Pruitt met his wife, Kelly. He is a former flight instructor as well as a former captain for a Delta Airlines affiliate. He still flies as a contract pilot. After moving from Atlanta, where he lived and worked for a time, back to Chauncey he started a business at the Eastman airport. That business, Valence Surface Technologies, grew to become the largest of its kind in the United States with approximately 1200 employees at multiple sites across the country.
A graduate of Leadership Dodge and Leadership Georgia, Pruitt emphasized that he is not a “career politician”; rather, he is a businessman who has built three area businesses through his leadership skills and believes he can use those same skills to drive and foster economic development in District 149. In addition to Valence Surface Technologies, Pruitt also owns an enterprise that, through a military contract, builds software for military war fighters. A third company that is just starting up provides robotic automation to manufacturing companies.
Pruitt has said previously, “We are at a critical crossroads for manufacturing in our country. Our President has cut taxes, cut regulations and removed barriers for growth and expansion of U.S. businesses.” As a result of the President’s efforts and the impact on supply chains caused by the coronavirus, he expects to see more companies open to moving manufacturing back to the U.S. and open to protecting their supply chains. “Our state and our 30. continued from page
district need to be ready and represented to work with those companies.”
Pruitt’s preelection visit to Wheeler and Telfair counties revealed citizens’ concerns about the impact insurance was having on the logging industry, how internet speeds and bandwidth are holding back small businesses, and about the needs of infrastructure and how those needs relate to economic development.
“I understand how critical infrastructure is to businesses, and I have experience negotiating with businesses and federal/state and local agencies. I want to see more jobs brought to our area and I want to help small businesses thrive so that our communities will have access to better resources,” he said in a preelection interview.
“We are seeing that rural Georgia is dying a slow death—some areas faster than others. It’s an insidious death that sneaks up on you so that you are left wondering what happened to your youth and your future,” he told the Chamber and Development Authority members. “I would love to be a part of what you are trying to do and where you are trying to go. I want to ask some challenging questions of you about your goals and objectives.” Pruitt said, “It is not just that we want industry here, we want to define what kind of industry blends into your access and resources. How do we grow that? I would love to be a part of that.” Pruitt emphasized, “I am a results-oriented person. I don’t care about drama. I just want to get to the end point. That’s the way I drive the businesses we own.” Pruitt has already reached out to the state resources that can assist the counties he represents and is ready to help establish a connection, but urged the Wheeler leaders to start the ball rolling. “You have to show you are open for business, that you are active and want to be a partner.” He advised, “Establish clear channels from here to the state level in case an opportunity comes along that fits you so at least you get to look at it,” he urged.
Pruitt advised, “There are multiple value streams that can bring industry to this county, but you have to be actively working with your established small business. There is no better way to grow a tax base than by growing local business.” Regarding local business he said, “Give them the path of least resistance to set up. Stating business can be intimidating. I don’t mind copying what somebody is doing. I will copy all day long, then try to beat you in another area to be competitive.”
He added, “These are the kind of things I love working on. I can’t promise I will make every meeting but I want to be involved.”